God Wins…but can I ?

A Mother's Journey


Dealing with the hard “stuff” – like her room

I am not even sure how to title this blog. After someone we love dies, it’s all hard. There’s nothing easy about heartbreaking loss.

For me, after losing my 15 year old daughter, there were aspects of the grief process that I confronted quickly, directly and aggressively. For example, I spoke at my daughter’s funeral. Looking back, I’m not quite sure how I had the ability to be articulate and not break down in tears. Well, yes, I do know. My love for her and desire to honor her gave me the adrenaline I needed to get through that experience. And only with God’s help.

Also, the first four years after Leah passed away, I was an assertive advocate for Make-A-Wish – speaking at events for them and leading a Walk for Wishes team in Leah’s memory for three years. My drive was to give back to Make-A-Wish. Our Wish trip to Paris was an incredibly wonderful gift. It was something positive on which to focus during Leah’s illness. As our last family vacation with Leah, the trip is a true memory to cherish.

One area of deep pain and avoidance has been going through her “stuff” and clearing out her bedroom. The first couple of years, I tried to go in her room. I even wrote a blog post about it. Yet, after I wrote that post, I shut the door and didn’t return for a very long time.

I wasn’t at peace going in her room. And I wasn’t at peace not going in her room.

It wound up being easier for me to avoid the whole experience. Her bedroom door stayed shut for more than four years.

Yet, every so often, I felt a nagging voice say, “You really need to get her room done. There are nice things our family and her friends can enjoy.”

Finally, the pestering voice won. For the last several months, I spent hours going through my daughter’s things and selecting items that I want to keep and items that I was open to giving away. Notice I said, “open to” giving away…

My husband and I are very different on this topic. He is very understanding and gracious. He’s given me the space to deal with her things in the best way that I can.

Going into her room felt like stepping back in time. Many items were left exactly where she placed them – books, clothes, stuffed animals, jewelry, photos, etc. It shocked me that there was no dust in the room.

This past month, I had friends, who were very close to Leah, pick out a few things before returning to college. I was worried her friends wouldn’t want to come to our home and go through her things. It has been almost five years. Happily, they were appreciative to select items that belonged to Leah.

Like so many moments after losing my daughter, this experience was bittersweet. It brought sadness and happiness. It is always wonderful to see Leah’s friends; I felt joy as they expressed their connection to her and her memory. It was meaningful to hear the reasons that they picked either a piece of jewelry, stuffed animal or Eiffel tower.

Other people I know dealt with  personal belongings quickly after a death – clearing out items within a couple weeks.

For me, I just couldn’t do it.

I’ve probably kept more of Leah’s items than I need, but it will be a process of releasing and letting go. The experience of clearing out her things feels like another goodbye – another sad goodbye.

I know that I am sentimental about “stuff,” I’ve learned to accept this fact about myself – items have meaning. I fully understand that the things aren’t Leah and they can never replace her.

A major step, in confronting the permanence of my loss, is complete.

One day, I may let most things of Leah’s go. For now, I have several boxes.

One item that I will never ever give away – Leah’s Bitty Baby Doll.

Never. Ever.

The joy on her face when she opened this Christmas present was priceless.

My reflection:

Do what you need to do – at your own pace – while being kind to yourself – and let your love win!

2005 5 septem bday dolls.jpg

My Little Miss with her favorite American Girl Dolls. The first two!




When grief becomes a poison

Meeting grief has similarities to a first time encounter with a stranger.

You see the person across the room at a party. The stranger looks awkward.

You think, “Oh, please. Oh, please don’t come toward me.”

And the unfamiliar person walks up to you – and makes an introduction, “Hello, I’m Grief.”

You are anxious and tense.

The discussion with Grief is circular; you have no idea where the conversation is going and when it will end.

But no one else comes up to chat, so you keep talking to Grief.

The pace of the conversation picks up. You begin to learn Grief’s connection to the host and some of her story.

Listening deeply, she connects with your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Grief shows great compassion toward your challenges.

When it’s time to leave, you exchange phone numbers.

Grief calls a lot at the beginning of the friendship.

She shows up at the least expected times — early in the morning, mid-day or late at night.

On certain special holidays, when you know she’ll call, Grief is actually comforting and affirming.

After some visits, Grief kinda makes you feel — well, alive and fully human.

After other visits, Grief leaves you tired, empty and drained.

After some time, she invites you to meet her relatives.

When you walk into her home, your eye catches the glance of a well-dressed, magnetic person.

As Grief’s cousin, she is the life of the party and a crowd grows around her.

Her demeanor is colorful, dramatic and engaging.

She captures the attention of everyone in the room with compelling stories.

You notice after several stories, she is always the hero and never the bad guy.

As the night wears on, you notice how repetitive she is. Grief’s cousin gets tired and she’s harshly reproachful.

Her smile is gone. Not happy anymore, she is seething.

She suddenly leaves and slams the door on the way out.

You walk up to your friend and ask, “What jut happened? Oh, by the way, I didn’t catch your cousin’s name?”

She turns to you, with a tired look, and says, “Oh, she’s always like that. She starts out the life of the party and then leaves in a huff. Her name: Bitterness.”


Note:  While I am not a grief expert, I have had my world rocked by distressing circumstances. My daughter and both parents died in an eleven month period. During this same year, I was laid off my ministry job of seven years — at a community to which I felt God called me.  These compound losses gave me a new lens to view the world.

ANY significant loss is a type of death. And with death, we grieve.

My faith community is experiencing heart wrenching pain because of moral failings,  broken trust, destructive words and much more . . . .

Due to the circumstance, individual and collective grief is morphing into many emotions and behaviors — some good and others not so good.

While we may not choose grief as a companion, we can choose what our suffering turns into.

  1. Grief is not bad. Grief can grow compassion. The depth of sorrow can help us see our humanness. It has the potential to birth something good — empathy. We can become more merciful and gracious toward ourselves and the humanness and vulnerability of others.
  2. Unchecked grief is bad. It can turn into deep, deep anger and a desire for retribution. (One example is that I experienced the consequences of severe judgment and self-focus that defined my grandmother’s life. Her father died when she was small and her husband had an affair.) 

When grief moves deep inside our hearts, it rots and morphs into bitterness.

Bitterness is a poison.

Bitterness is:

  • Unforgiving
  • Blinding
  • Unloving
  • Short-sighted
  • Self-focused
  • Alluring
  • Relentlessly determined
  • Deceptive
  • Isolating
  • Destructive
  • Cynical
  • Critical

We falsely believe we can control bitterness; we cannot. The charmer controls us.

We hold the poison in our hands and drink it willingly when bitterness becomes our friend.

I’ve fought off this harsh emotion after losing Leah. I haven’t handled each of my losses perfectly, but I sniff out its toxicity near me.  I want to get better at refusing to drink from the well of bitterness.

My hope is that each of us pause, acknowledge our grief, own it, work through it and not allow this abhorrent substance to seep into our souls and hearts. And if we do, there is hope.

Our great Healer offers the antidote once we consume the poison – a big dose of forgiving love.


Grief and Bitterness can be personified as “he” as well. Insert the pronoun that works best for you…